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Showing items filed under “Pastor John's Blog”

What We’re Called to Do During the Next Five Years

Jesus has called us on a journey.  He leads the way.  He calls the shots.  We respond in faith and obedience to Him.  While we don’t have total clarity on every detail we can listen and watch and understand where some of our journey will lead.  This is where I believe the Lord is calling us to go together as a church during the next five years.  Some of it may seem scary but when you stop and think about what we’ve already seen Jesus do in us and through us, I don’t think any of this is improbable or naive.  Some will no doubt think we’re boasting or over-reaching.  Please understand that we at Zion do not believe we will single-handedly do any of this.  But we believe that Jesus will use us to get it started and bring people together.  Thanks for reading.  God bless you.  PJ

 

What We’re Called to Do During the Next Five Years (2016-2021)

This is what we believe God has in store for us in the next five years:

 

1.)  We believe we are called to the racial reconciliation of our city.   Ours is a unique church.  We are very diverse.  We are multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-generational, multi-ethnic, diverse educationally, economically and socially.  Currently, we enjoy an excellent reputation in our community as a place that exemplifies the best of what followers of Jesus can be.  We also have many good relationships with pastors of African American churches.  I believe we have the relational currency to host a dialog about race in our city that can start small and grow into something even bigger. 

 

How will we do this?: 

a.)  By leveraging our current cross cultural relationships to participate.

b.)  By hosting dialogs and conversations.

c.)  By showing up to events hosted by African American churches in our city.

d.)  By joining the Ministerial Alliance (formerly the Black Ministerial Alliance).

e.)  By the strategic use of the Zion One Body Fund (an instrument by which we can bless other churches).

f.)   By continuing to worship together across cultural boundaries.

g.)  By future strategic staffing.  

 

2.)  We believe we are called to be a place for civil discourse in our city.  We can hardly talk to each other.  Our society is so bitterly divided between right and left, conservative and liberal, democrat and republican.  We need to be able to talk about issues as they relate to God’s Word.  Whether that is race, abortion, gay marriage, immigration or anything else.  The Church can be this kind of place because we believe in reconciliation and forgiveness.  Because we believe that love conquers all and that forgiveness is the answer.  We need to bring this to the rest of our society.

 

How will we do this?:

a.)  By leveraging what we hope will be our successful commitment to racial reconciliation (above).

b.)  By continuing to host interfaith dialogs and build on these.

c.)  By hosting Q Commons events (see  http://qcommons.com).

 

3.)  We believe we are called to the alleviation of poverty in our city.  Oh, it’s a magnificent claim but we believe it can be done.  Why?  Because we’ve seen our families come alongside immigrant and refugee families and change the course of their lives.  We’ve seen this church come alongside people groups, incorporate them and we’ve seen entire people groups elevated because of it.  Our Chin-Mizo people have a certain reputation among the Burmese population.  That reputation is that they succeed.  Why?  Because they have help and because they help each other.  Our Mizo members are buying houses at an amazing rate.  And not just here in Lower Beaver or Meredith Drive neighborhoods,  but also in Urbandale.  Hickory Lane in Urbandale has six new Mizo families living in grand houses.  Why?   Because together we can work toward the  elimination of poverty by the elevation of the family.    We absolutely believe that what we’ve learned in working with immigrants and refugees will work with the urban core, should we choose to engage.  So, please, let us engage together.

 

How will we do this?:

a.)  By continuing our efforts to encourage home ownership.  10:30 Swahili service is an excellence place to focus. 

b.)  By continuing our efforts to encourage higher levels of education through our relationships in the STARS program. 

c.)  By hitting the problem of fatherlessness head on. 

d.)  By organizing men’s ministry in at risk communities within our city.

e.) By celebrating the heck out of graduations.

f.)  By finding a way to connect our kids with scholarships already available.

g.)  By participating in The United Way’s Walk for Graduation event. 

 

4.)  We are called to be a sending church.  This means we need to equip our people to go out.  It also means we need to prepare to go to other churches and teach them what we’ve learned about trusting God.  It also may mean that in the next five years we will be ready to plant another church.

  • We have something to share with other churches. It’s time to share with others what God has done at Zion.  Time to encourage and equip others to step out in faith. Our teaching isn’t arrogant, it’s simply a testimony about what God has done. 
  • We believe that God wants to amplify what He’s been doing at Zion. We believe we are called to teach other churches how to advance the kingdom of God. We believe Zion is at the forefront of leading a New Reformation in our region.  We understand that many will misunderstand this.   What do we mean by it?

 

We do hard things at Zion.  Not once in a while, but routinely - really, if we’re honest, every week.  Don’t you want to be part of a church that does hard things?  Isn’t that why you’re here? 

 

We do hard things like reconciliation and forgiveness. 

Like helping the poor and the least of these.

Like helping those others have tossed over the side because they are unloving and disrespectful.

Like working across cultural and linguistic and generational and class lines.

 

We, together, at Zion, understand that it isn’t about whether or not you like the songs we sing or what kind of show we put on on Sunday mornings - it’s about the joy of knowing you’re living the Jesus Life Monday through Sunday and the love we have for our Master and for each other and for the people of the world that Jesus so longs to save.

 

Together, we can teach other churches how to sacrifice themselves for Jesus - how to offer themselves up as a fragrant offering.  The Church is the only institution known to man whose founder died so that others might live.  That is our calling.  To imitate Him, Jesus, and die to ourselves so that others might live.

 

History may never remember the name of Zion Church.  But what if we gave ourselves  up so that every church in this city might die to self, consider other’s worthy of greater respect, and so that Jesus might be elevated? 

 

How will this happen?:

a.)  We’ve had so much media attention in 2016, sooner or later the invitations will come. People will ask us to come and share our experiences.

b.)  People will come to us who want to learn.  It isn’t that we want to impose ourselves on anyone, what we’re saying is that people see the kingdom here and want to know how it happened.

c.)  Pastor John has been asked to be on a panel at the 2017 LCMC National Gathering in Minneapolis and do a break out session on Zion’s ministry. 

 

5.) We believe we are called to the eradication of loneliness in our neighborhoods. Mother Teresa called loneliness the poverty of the developed world.  I think there are many lonely people in our midst.  And the church, together, can visit them, talk to them, make them feel that they are valued and belong like no other institution on earth.  So I’m calling you, anyone who feels passionately about this, to come with us and visit the lonely.  Help them in their isolation.  Not for what they can give to us but for what we can give to them - the Good News of Jesus Christ.  We believe at Zion that you need to feel you belong before you can believe.  This has worked for us with the Muslims and the Buddhists and the animists and with the unbelievers.  We believe it will certainly work with the the lonely, the forgotten, the isolated.  But we need to go and seek them out. 

 

How will this happen?:

a.) Through the identification of lonely people and the effort of going to befriend them where they are.  How do you identify lonely people?  Begin by asking people who know them. 

 

6.)  We believe that one day we will have a combined board structure, that will incorporate the different services into one leadership structure.  We could be 5-10 years away from this, but we believe it is our future and the things we do today are moving us down the path toward what will be complete unity. 

 

How will this happen?:

a.)  New bylaws will give us the flexibility to better represent different language groups at Zion.  New bylaws will also encourage the merging of existing leadership structure to give better communication and accountability. 

 

7.) We believe we will have new bylaws.  We need bylaws that support the mission we’re on and that are flexible enough to address future changes without holding us back. 

 

How will this happen?:

a.)  Through lots of prayer and an examination of the ministry we do and how our structures and procedures should be adjusted to further the growth of the ministry.  It will be a process with plenty of time and space for congregational feedback. 

 

8.) There will be a new staff organizational structure and new employees.

We are growing and changing all the time and we need to reorganize ourselves in order to further the mission and ministry of Zion.  This also means bringing some new people on board.

 

How will this happen?:

a.)  See attached new organizational chart. 

b.) God will bring the right people and the right structure.  A call committee is being organized to look for the best candidates possible.

 

9.)  We believe we must actively pursue a way of doing ministry that doesn’t lead to ministry being dependent upon one person or personality.   It’s time to raise up and empower and equip and release leaders to continue the work of the ministry so that the loss of one person (like Pastor John or others) won’t cripple our ministry and keep us from moving forward. 

 

How will this happen?

a.)  More connections need to be made between ministry leaders and staff at Zion. Relationships need to be made and ownership needs to be taken.

b.)  More people need to own the vision of Zion.

c.)  We need to teach our values for decision making to the entire congregation.

d.)  The ministry at Zion needs to be connected to Scriptural reference and to the gospel.

 

10.)  We believe we will launch Des Moines’ first  mobile ESL classroom.  We have a lovely trailer in the parking lot which we could renovate into a classroom.  It would be Des Moines’ first mobile ESL classroom and would provide access to those who can’t leave their apartment complexes. 

 

How will this happen?

a.)  The trailer is already in our parking lot and could be ours for just a few thousand.

b.)  A little planning and removing of walls needs to be done.

c.)  We have good relationships with apartment management and could park the classroom in several different apartment complexes regularly for class.

d.)  We need a truck to pull it. 

e.)  We need a teacher to teach. 

 

11.)  We believe that in the next five years, STARS will become so popular among kids that we will be able to plant it in other churches around the city.

  • This is part of what it means to be a sending church.

 

How will this happen?

a.)  By finding the right partner churches.  Westminster is asking to join us now.  But some standard needs to be considered when encountering partners.  Are you willing to graciously receive the kids? 

 

12.)  We believe that we will ascertain if there is a need to build anything more on our current campus in the next five years.  If our current ministry continues to grow, we know we will need more space.

 

How will this happen?

a.)  In order to prepare for that we need to commission a campus plan.  The estimated cost will be between $6,000-$10,000. 

 

13.)  We believe that within the next five years we will have a sustainable funding plan in place for Zion’s operating budget.   This is a tall order but it’s necessary.  We need to continue to develop funding sources outside our own congregation and even outside our own community.  We need to do this without compromising our faith or values but we need to have a plan. 

 

How will this happen?

a).  First, by analyzing our current expenses and revenue sources.  There is much we’re learning as we see the numbers and understand from where they’re coming.

b.)  By maximizing our good will in the community to raise funds.

c.)  By understanding what we can ask the community to help us fund and what we need to fund ourselves. 

d.)  By developing a donor base for those outside of Zion and trying to develop it into a continuing revenue source.

e.) By exploring new ways of making it easy to give to Zion (like i-pads in the lobby with Square device). 

f.)  By putting more effort and thought into the seasons and means by which we ask the congregation for money.  In other words, by being smarter about stewardship. 

 

14.)  We believe that in the next five years we will have trained another level of pastoral and lay ministry leadership for Zion and a future church plant.  We have wonderful interns who are ready to lead and have wonderful skills.  We have amazing lay people who are anxious to take the next step.  We need to keep on raising up layers of leaders to lead our congregation into the future God has prepared for us.  People at Zion are eager to help and an amazing number of them are engaged in the ministry of the church (65% of able bodied adult members).  But few wish to go to board meetings.  Many think that it will damage their experience of Zion because they believe boards are political and politics in the church is bad.  We need to be looking for our next BSO president and BOA chair and raising up people who can handle the necessary “political” activity to keep us functioning. 

 

How will this happen?

a.)  We need to develop a solid and repeatable internship program.

b.)  We need to develop a solid process for developing leaders.  This fits very well with our stated objective to develop a way of making disciples at Zion. 

c.)  Development of these leaders will also help us with a future multi-cultural church plant. 

d.)  Reintroduce the Biblical concept of eldership as a leadership model.  Preach and teach about it so that it isn’t intimidating. 

e.)  Discover the spiritual gifts of our congregation. 

 

15.)  We believe that within the next five years we will develop a new dashboard that will become the way we measure whether or not we are succeeding at Zion.

This is another hard task.  It will require a lot of reflection.  But we want to avoid the mistakes of the past where we came to rely too much on numbers of people and money.  Our first measure should be whether or not we are faithful to what God wants.  How do we measure whether or not we are making disciples even if it means that attendance is down or giving is down?  Over the last years we have discovered that being faithful to God doesn’t necessarily lead to more people or more money.  It leads to more ministry.  If the ministry is growing, we will always be short of people and financial resources.  What should be the indicators we track? 

 

How will this happen?

a.)  We need to develop a way of making sure that the entire Zion community hear’s the miraculous stories those who work here hear on a daily basis. 

 

16.)  In the next five years we will have a clear method and procedure for making disciples.  We know that we will need to try many things but for now we will begin with triads, groups of three meeting together and encouraging each other to grow in what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  The triads will be encouraged to multiply. 

 

How will this happen?

a.)  Zion is partnering with INSTE Bible College in Ankeny to provide on site discipleship training via a certificate program.  The two year program is extremely thorough in teaching on discipleship, Christian living, apologetics, and Bible.  We’ll be ready to start this program in the Fall of 2017.  The program will offer education in Zion’s multi-cultural context (that means they’ll be people there from different cultures and races).  This will help to strengthen and grow our mutual faith.  The program also provides accountability for those who might otherwise drift away from a small group or Bible study. 

 

17.)  Over the next five years we will find a way to consolidate our way of thinking and assure that our ministry and methodology will continue beyond our generation.  This is why it’s important for us to agree upon and teach our congregation our mission, vision and values.  This is also why our pastoral leadership plan is so important and why our new bylaws will be significant.  If the way we do things changes every time we change board members or pastors, we will have no stability in our ministry.   The future of the ministry at Zion isn’t truly secure until the congregation itself completely understands what we do and why. 

 

How will this happen?
a.)  We need to spend some time every year teaching about our unique mission, vision and values.  These are things that God has given specifically to Zion and need to become a part of our DNA. 

 

18.)  We believe in the next five years we will begin the habit of having an annual youth and an annual adult conference involving all the people of Zion.   These are cross cultural events and the first is being planned. 

 

How will this happen?

a.)  By forming teams of Congolese, Mizo, English service attenders and others to plan and execute the events. 

 

19.)  We believe that over the next five years we will worship together at least as much as we worship separately.    We already worship now on the second Sunday together as well as other major events and holidays.  People seem to embrace this and so we move forward into the future together as one people becoming one church.

 

How will this happen?

a.)  We believe there will be a desire to worship together twice monthly from the youth of the Zion community. 

 

20.)  In the next five years we will find a way to meet the need we see in our ministry for transitional housing.  There are so many who have no secure housing.  They live month by month because of other problems in their lives.  If we cold make their housing secure it would give us the opportunity to help them with the cause of the insecurity in their lives.  This is the best way to keep people off the streets, help them transition from the streets for good, and move from financial insecurity to financial security.

 

How will this happen?

a).  Miraculously and without warning.  God will provide us a place. 

 

21.)  We believe that in the next five years we will have a global missions team that will work together to further our enormous work abroad.  Things would be so much easier if we worked together to raise funds and draw on current resources in order to finance our work abroad.  We realize that most of our work abroad is a result of our work with people locally in the Zion community.  Perhaps all our oversees workers could be brought together to do one major fund raiser a year that would sustain our work abroad.  Such an arrangement would not curtail fundraising outside the congregation but would simplify our fundraising work within the congregation and bring unity among the diversity of missionaries we support.  Such a plan would also elevate some of the burdens of planning and fundraising currently done by staff at Zion. 

 

How will this happen?

a.)  It begins with coming together and getting all parties to buy-in. 

 

I believe we can do these things.  We nay not be people with extraordinary abilities but we are people with extraordinary opportunities.  and who choose to engage those opportunities in Jesus‘ Name with what abilities we have trusting that the Lord will provide all that is needed for us to succeed in His Name. 

 

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Our Understanding of Church

We understand that the Church is the followers of Jesus together. The Church is people of all nations, ethnicities, generations, abilities. It is a place where opposites are reconciled, where there is no longer any Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor

female, because we are all in Christ Jesus together and he is our new identity.

We understand that the Church is universal, triumphant and militant, that it exists in all

times and all places, both here on earth and in heaven, and that we are a part of

something that is so much bigger than we are.  (Galatians 3:26-29)

 

We understand that the Church is the banquet (Luke 14) and that Jesus is the host and

we are the messengers who are called to invite the world to the party and we are to

serve at that party so that those who were on the outside may become those on the

inside.  (Luke 14:16-24)

 

We understand that the Church is the 99 sheep who await with joy and gladness the

return of the shepherd and of the lost brother. We understand that we are the brother

who stayed with the Father and that we share in all that He has and that we are to

rejoice with him when our prodigal siblings return. We understand that we are to help

with the banquet to welcome home those who have been far away from God.  (Luke 15:3-7;11-32)

 

We understand that at different times we are all the lost brother and the sheep who went astray.  Therefore we are gracious and hospitable to those who are far from God in the hopes that they will come home to Him. 

 

We understand that the Church is to be a servant to all, that we are to wash the feet of

everyone as our Master taught us. By doing these simple acts of kindness, with great

love, we show the love of God to all and especially to our Lord Christ. We understand

that to love someone as Christ has loved us is not an abstract thing but rather that love

is expressed in concrete ways.  (John 13:13-17; Mt 25:35-40)

 

We understand that Church is sent on a mission.  Jesus says, “Go!”  Too often the Church sits and waits for people to come to her. Jesus told us to go and we believe him. Ministry is “out there.” Out there is where the one’s who need his light and love are waiting for Him to come to them. How can He go if we don’t take him with us?  (Matthew 28:19-20) 

 

We understand that the Church is organized according to spiritual gifts  that the Lord has given to us through the Holy Spirit in the same way that a body is organized into organs. Some are gifted to lead, some to teach, some to minister and so on. All these gifts work together in harmony so that His great Body might be made real in the here and now. We understand that such a way of being organized requires us to die to our selves, to submit to one another out of love, not lording it over one another but that we must become the least, the last and the servant of all. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

 

We understand that the Church, to be the real manifestation of Christ, must be

completely transparent and completely honest. Therefore, we must speak the truth in

love to one another, we must bear one another’s burdens, and we must reconcile with

each other and not allow any unresolved conflicts to fester. Failure to live in such a way

creates divisions and divisions keep the body from achieving unity and being a faithful

representative of Christ.  (Colossians 3:12-14)

 

As a church, a part of that greater Church, we want to do something beautiful for Jesus,

just like the woman in Matthew who anointed Jesus. We want every act of service, large or small, to be done with a great love that will somehow honor and minister to Jesus, our Lord King. (Matthew 26:6-10). 

Thanks for reading!  God bless you.  PJ

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Tags: blog, church

Moving from Maintenance to Mission. How to Move Outward.

A writer I know asked me a question for a piece she was writing: “What is your secret to having such an outward-focused church? Seriously, most Lutheran churches are all about maintenance. Most churches, period, are all about ME. What is your secret?”

Here is my answer to her question:
Turns out that Jesus was right. You can’t put new wine in old wine skins. The old skins whine. And most churches are full of old wine skins. They whine that they want new wine and new skins, if for no other reason than to continue the church. But they expect the new wine to mature quickly and become just like them. They expect the new skins to accommodate the old wine. But Jesus says it doesn’t work like that. They expect people who have no experience with church to value the same things they do, behave as they do, know and follow the rules as they do. In short, they expect people new to Jesus and new to the church to be just like them. But they aren’t just like them. In order to welcome in new people, by which I mean people new to faith in Jesus Christ and not just recycled members from other churches, we who are already in the church must die to ourselves and our favorite ways of doing things for the sake of welcoming new brothers and sisters. We know how to make church members. We don’t know how to make disciples. Even many life long church members have never been discipled and don’t understand that that word is the significance of the church. They don’t understand that being a disciple isn’t about simply knowing the Bible stories, it’s about whether or not you can live what the stories teach. They don’t understand that we are on the mission of God together, as a church, to love as Jesus loves and to make disciples of him. Plus, many long time church members expect that as pastor you can continue to offer them the same level of customer service they have come to expect and that you can still have time to go out and bring in more people to help pay the bills and replace those who have died.  Teaching our people to die to themselves helps them to mature into Christ-likeness together.  It's hard, but it's necessary.  

I think the entire Church in North America must undergo a mission shift. By this I mean that we must enter into the mission of God to bring his light and love and salvation and grace and mercy and his Word made flesh to the world.  To do this we must become the enfleshment of the gospel ourselves.  

Here are some thoughts about what is necessary for this mission shift to occur:

  • This isn’t about methods. It’s about attitude. Will we act as if we trust God or not? If all things are possible for him who believes, then we need to take the proverbial bull by the horns and act as if what we believe is going to happen.
  • You need to be desperate for the kingdom in order to attempt this. You have to hunger and thirst for an experience like that church back in Acts 2. Then you have to cry out to the Lord for a vision. You have to be really, really desperate to start this - I mean, afraid that things will just continue as normal has to be your nightmare.
  • Become obedient to the WHOLE WORD of God. Not just the thou shalt nots, but the thou shalts. God talks way more about caring for the widow and orphan than he spends on gay marriage and pre-marital sex.
  • Live out the parables of Jesus. Take Luke 14, for example. Go put on a banquet for people who can’t bless you back.
  • Follow Jesus into everything. Become radically obedient. When he says, “Love your enemies,” go round up some enemies to love and set about intentionally loving them without the expectation that they will love you back in any way.
  • Preach the WHOLE Gospel. You are saved by grace through faith - in order to do good works God positioned for you in advance. You were saved for a purpose. We forget that part.
  • Put obedience to the teachings of Jesus as the highest priority.
  • Start making decisions as if you really did believe Jesus was coming back tomorrow. It adds an urgency to your ministry and keeps you from worrying about committing too many resources. I mean, if Jesus were coming back tomorrow, you’d want all your resources, people/money/buildings/vehicles/etc. deployed in his work, right?
  • Seek the praise of God and not men or women. Forget about making people happy. You can’t. Focus only on doing something beautiful for Jesus. Please him and you will please the Father. And, according to Jesus, the world will see what you do and praise your Father in heaven.
  • Understand that you are Moses and you have been chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery and death in Egypt. And understand that they will be stiffed necked and complain continuously, be disobedient and plot your demise. Lead them any way to the very best of your ability. Be sure to keep following the Presence of God in fire and cloud, or however he chooses to show you his presence.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The future of the Church in North America is so bleak that it’s better to try and fail then not to try at all.
  • Action is better than inaction. We are so far into the ditch of inaction we simply don’t need to worry about over doing yet.
  • Stop treating church members like customers, consumers or share holders. Treat them as if they were soldiers of the cross and followers of Jesus. Say things like, “Jesus tells us we are to feed the poor. Therefore, we will gather this week and do so. I know you all will be there because it’s what Jesus wants.” Expect your people to follow Jesus and treat them as if they will.
  • Remind people the church isn’t a cruise ship - it’s a warship. Our Master and King is at war. We are too. Now get to your action station.
  • Ask forgiveness rather than permission. Step out boldly if it's the right thing to do. Remember, act as if Jesus is coming tomorrow. This is the only way to get started. Too many churches have been making big plans for too long and they will never be enacted because there is always an excuse for delay.
  • Pray as much as you possibly can. Then go out and do. If it’s the wrong thing, he’ll show you and put you on the right track.
  • Intentionally bless people who can't bless you back.  
  • Ask everyone in your community, “How can the church bless you?” We are blessed to be a blessing. But we hardly ever bless anyone. Go to the schools, the businesses, the mall, the hospitals, the restaurants. Everywhere you go ask how you can bless them. Most will laugh at you. Some will tell you what they need and it will be transformative for both of you.
  • Don’t expect your people to do anything you haven’t done. If you want them to meet strangers, go meet some yourself first and tell them how to do it. If you ask them to pick up trash at an apartment complex, be sure you’ve done it.
  • Don’t be afraid to lose everything and know that everything will come loose.
  • Don’t be afraid to be humiliated. People will call you names and tell you that you are doing it wrong. But they’ve never done what you’re doing and they wouldn’t, even if they could. They don’t want you to do it because it means that it can be done and they should be doing it too. When the Church is on mission, it makes lazy Christians look bad.
  • Talk is cheap. Live your sermons out in front of God and everyone else. Show everyone what loving Jesus looks like.
  • Understand that your family will suffer. People will be out to get you for shaking things up and because they’re out to get you, your family will be in the cross hairs, too. Long time friends will desert you. You will experience financial hardship. You will be in and out of depression. You will have long, tiring meetings that will not end well. But God is faithful and one of the highest callings is to suffer for the name of Jesus and for the gospel. Learn to revel in suffering for dong what God wants.
  • Do hard things. Go out and find hard things you can’t do but that need to be done and then go and try to do them. Take risks, putting yourself in situations where only God can save you. You have to learn to live by faith.
  • Look for ways to make the gospel real. Look for ways to practice radical forgiveness. Do the unexpected. Practice a radical grace. People have no imagination for the kingdom these days. We need to show them what it looks like. I think that’s why Jesus taught in parables. They stimulate our imagination for what might be.
  • Practice generosity. Jesus says give to everyone who asks. It’s hard, but pay other people’s bills before you pay your own.
  • Practice collective death to self by giving away the building. Let everyone who needs it use it for free. Go volunteer your building as an emergency shelter with your county emergency management office. Give keys to the local school in case they need a rally point during a disaster. Whatever it is, do it.
  • Practice a radical dependance on God, not people. When money is low, stop passing the plate. Put a box in the lobby and tell the people that what they give is between them and God. Then make the elders pray all night for God to send the resources. He responds to challenges like that when we acknowledge that he alone can save us and that our salvation does not come through people.
  • Realize that gospel opportunities are totally spontaneous and cannot be engineered. You cannot turn this way of life into a program nor can you budget for it. How much does it cost? Everything and more. Rather, when you see an opportunity, take it. Don’t be afraid to commit to what you cannot do. If it’s an opportunity from God he will miraculously provide. Trust that the opportunity is from him and he’ll provide and do it. We committed to get 35 kids back and forth to school everyday before we had any vans or drivers. God provides.
  • Leverage everything you’ve got for the mission. We had no money but we did have a building. So we leveraged it. It is now in use almost 24/7 now. It’s hip in the missional movement to say that buildings are just a huge expense. But we had one so we used it.  What do you have?  Use it.  
  • If you’re doing things that aren’t mission, kill them. We cut two staff positions because they only served the membership and the staff members were’n’t open to expanding their roles to embrace the mission shift. The money we saved was immediately absorbed into feeding hungry people, starting an Iraqi community group, and buying beds for families sleeping on the floors of bed-bug infested apartments.
  • Ruthlessly fight fear with faith. Speak faith to fear all the time by committing acts of outrageous love. The devil will use all the fear he has to make your people and you turn back and stop following Jesus and stop trusting him. It’s like suddenly you’ll be jarred awake and realize you’re walking on a high wire with no net. The tendency is to panic. Remember that the real war here is in the spiritual realms. Then go back to work. Be courageous and be bold. The devil flees from faith. Sometimes you just have to double down and force people to keep going. You wind up burning every bridge so they can’t retreat. You’re like a gambler doubling down on each bet, trusting God is going to give you the victory.
  • Remind people that salvation isn’t about when you’re dead, it’s about how you live right now.
  • Above all, maintain unity in Christ. Exalt the kingdom over the congregation and pursue the interests of Christ above your own. Seek unity with other churches. Especially minority churches. Jesus was serious about that whole John 17 thing and we do well to be obedient to his prayer request. People may attack you for trying to reconcile differences for the sake of unity. But if we aren’t reconciling are we really a church? People will attack you for seeking unity but it isn’t really unity they don’t want, they just don’t want Jesus that much. Don’t stop. Love never gives up.

Thanks for reading. You can read the writer, Rebecca Florence Miller’s piece in Patheos at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rebeccaflorencemiller/2015/12/the-blessing-of-serving-refugees/

Our Recent Media Attention

We've always said that what we do at Zion we do for Jesus and for no one else.  Our greatest hope, joy and aspiration is that we would do a beautiful thing for Jesus as a church.  Jesus is quite clear that "when you do your acts of charity, don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing."  So we've never sought the spotlight to promote our ministry.  Oh, we've been tempted.  Every week when we run short of money, we're sorely tempted to try and market our own way out.  But in the end, we always believe that God will provide for what He wants to do.   Sometimes we've asked the Lord why it's so hard to find the funds to help the poor and the least.  He's replied consistently that He has "already provided."  So, rather than market ourselves, we've laid off staff and slashed expenses and redone our budgets so that we could continue doing what we believe is a beautiful thing for Him.   Through these years we've learned that fame does not necessarily lead to giving.  In short, we've learned that being faithful to God and relying entirely on Him to provide is the best way to grow our faith and meet our needs.

 

So, you can understand why some of us would be shocked by the recent media attention we've received.  We didn't seek it out.  God Himself brought it.  

 

So now we have have to ask, "Why now, Lord?"  For some months now, some of us in leadership at Zion have been feeling that God wanted to "amplify" what He is doing at Zion.  In other words, God wants people to see the ministry at Zion as a kind of testimony to Himself.  We believe this is part of His plan to do two things:  a.)  Be glorified in the ministry at Zion.  b.) Launch us into the next phase of our ministry:  He wants Zion to become a teaching and sending church.  

 

What is a teaching and sending church?  By teaching and sending church we simply mean that we believe we are called to share the stories of God's faithfulness here in order to encourage other churches to step out in faith.  We've learned a few things that we can share which are applicable in every situation.  The ministry of Zion honor's God not because we serve refugees and immigrants and the poor and the least; rather, the ministry of Zion simply seeks to step out in faith and honor Him by going out into the community and engaging people where they are.  Our ministry really isn't about the people we serve; it's about the God we serve.  And that God wants His Church to know that.  Many people have said to us, "Our church should do what you do but we don't have the people you have to serve."  Being a teaching church means that we can help change that attitude to, "Just Go.  God will show you your ministry, unique to you, prepared in advance for you to do, simply believe Him and trust Him and go and find it."  

 

A sending church simply sends out people.  New ministries, new churches are birthed as a result.  We believe that we have people ready to go.  To go to the nations, the poor, the least, the lonely, the elderly, the young, the lost, the wandering, the hard working, the lazy, the dreamers, the depressed, the artists, the sick, the prisoners, the wealthy, the middle aged, the well educated and the pre-literate.  Everyone.  Everywhere.  Where ever we go as humans, the Spirit of God goes with us and there is ministry to be done in His name and for His glory.  

 

Here is the article in Christianity Today:  

Christianity Today Article

Here is an interview with the Dr. Bill Maier Radio Show (Life Radio): 

Oops.  Well, I can't figure out how to load it in here.  Sorry.  I have it on MP3.   

Here is an interview with Moody Bible Radio (Cleveland):

Moody Bible Radio (Cleveland) Interview

 

What's next?  

Well, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) will be at Zion the weekend of September 17-18 to film and do interviews.  

 

Here is what we hope is the result of the recent publicity.

1.)  We hope it glorifies God.  Jesus said that we were the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  He said that we should "Let your light so shine before men that they would see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven."  To God be all the glory, now and forever.  Amen.

 

2.)  We hope it encourages the Zion community.  We hope we can accept this as a kind of "well done, good and faithful servant" while at the same time recognizing that we are still "unworthy servants."  We've been through a lot at Zion and experienced a lot of loss and a lot of change.  This is a time for us to be joyful.  We hope it adds to the healing of all of us who have been on this journey together need.  We have counted all things as lost.  This will hopefully give us a "spring in our step" as Pastor Bob Solberg used to say.

 

3.)  We hope it influences other churches and launches them on a journey together with Jesus to find a ministry that will glorify the Father and bless the world around us.  We hope it will lead them to bless those who cannot bless them back.  

 

4.)  We hope we can take some time now to reflect on the last six years since our Mission Shift.  How did we get here and why?  It's time to do some reflecting and writing and contemplation.  

Will this go to our heads?  I don't think all of this will go to our heads.  Feel free to tell us if you think it is.  I think we're on mission and this is simply a part of the mission.  After September, I think there will be no more coverage and we'll just go back to doing beautiful things for Jesus without any fanfare.  Which is where we belong.  Thanks for reading. PJ 

Go Ahead and Smoke?

Go Ahead and Smoke?

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything. It isn’t from lack of content. Quite the contrary. There has been so much happening lately and I find myself too tired to write. There’s also something else. I’ve become afraid of offending people again. I say again because I’ve been here before. Once again I think I have to push through the fear because the things that are happening are just the things people need to read about and consider. So, trusting in God’s amazing ability to use everything for good, here I go.

This week marks the end of our summer Bible camp season. This year we were able to send 111 kids to two different camps over three weeks. We are so grateful to those who donated for this effort. The price tag is around $20,000. But we received donations from all over the city and we are thankful.

One evening this week I got a call from the director of the camp where most of the kids go. It’s about 4 hours from us. Great place. Amazing people. They want to help us reach our kids for Jesus. The call wasn’t good. The director was really angry and asked me to come and take home a couple of the boys. He caught them smoking. He dealt with it. Two days later, he caught them again. That’s it. Home they go because they didn’t respect the rules.

I know and love the boys involved. They are great kids, full of potential and life. When I got to the camp they came out of chapel and embraced me and just hung on to me. Turns out, four of them were coming home with me. Three struggle with English and are closer to 20 than 15. One is 13 and from a Buddhist family.

Here’s the back story. These boys came to the US as refugees four or five years ago. The older ones were about 12 or 13 when they arrived. That’s the hardest age to assimilate to our culture. You don’t really understand your culture of origin yet and now you are thrown into a new one with a new language. They sort of have their feet in both worlds but aren’t really comfortable in either. The youngest came when he was 9 or 10. That’s a great age to change cultures. You’re resilient. You master both languages and both worlds.

The boys were born and grew up living in refugee camps comprised of bamboo houses along the Thai-Burma border. Their parents taught them how to smoke when they were about 8.

Back at camp, I asked for clarification about why the boys were being sent home. “Was it the smoking or was it the disrespect?” The counselors all said it was the smoking. The director said it was the smoking and that the second time it was disrespect because they were told not to do it. So I asked the boys why they smoked the second time. Especially since the counselors caught them so quickly, it seemed as if the boys weren’t hiding it at all. “Pastor John, we couldn’t hold it anymore,” they said. Two days was about as long as they could go without tobacco. I suppose seven years of casual smoking would create an addiction. Lesson learned by Pastor John and Zion: next time we send the high school kids to camp, bring along some Nicorrette gum.  And we need to do a much better job of bridging the cultural divides on both sides.  

The camp director told me this was only the second time in 20 some years he’d sent someone home. The first time it was for heresy. Of course, in my mind, I began to wonder if smoking was now on par with heresy. I think in the eyes of our society it might be. The director was worried that the boys were a bad example to the other kids.

On the long ride home I asked the boys about the camp. They had a wonderful time. They loved their counselors. They didn’t mean to be disrespectful at all. They loved the food. They loved the games. And then they very carefully explained the gospel to me. The Buddhist boy told me all about Jesus and how he came and died on the cross for our sins and rose again. They got the message. Mission accomplished. It’s just a crying shame they had to go home early. And I’m left wondering if we lived up the gospel that they heard at camp.

So I shared their story with some of the staff and leaders and volunteers at Zion. We all had a good laugh. Turns out that we all had the same reaction to the boys being sent home for smoking. Here’s our reaction: At Zion we’re actually worried about young men we know by name who came to the US from the middle east at that awkward age between 13 and 18 and can’t seem to find their place in either culture growing up to join a terrorist group. We’re worried about other kids growing up to join a gang or getting into drugs or guns. We’re worried about the safety of our kids growing up on mean streets and becoming the victims of senseless violence. We’re so worried about the kids and these big things we were completely surprised by what we didn’t worry about. We didn’t worry about them smoking.  

I think that’s part of what makes Zion such a weird and wonderful place. What seems to scandalize most people doesn’t seem to bother us at all. We’re focused on other things.

My wife and I had dinner with a new family at Zion this week. They described what it was like to come to Zion for the first time. They talked about how when you walk into the lobby you’re confronted by the furniture there for people to take. And the bins full of clothes that arrived for the clothes closet and the people going through the bins and choosing items before church starts. They talked about walking down the hall and being overwhelmed by the different languages being spoken. And about how our worship service has absolutely no aspect of being a big show. They talk about their first impressions as a kind of assault on their senses. Like being immersed in ice cold water. Thankfully, they decided to stay and deploy themselves for the sake of the gospel through the ministries of Zion.

We understand that we’re a weird church. We understand that we present as an overwhelming, out of control place at first. We’re not focused on the things other people are focused on. We’re focused on the immediate matter of being the gospel in our community. But we have come to believe that’s the nature of the gospel. The gospel is wild and beyond our control. The gospel is about a God who loves us so much that he takes on flesh and blood for us, rescues us on the cross, and rises to give us a new life. It’s about a God that invites us to join him on his mission to reconcile the whole world to himself. It’s about a God who welcomes sinners and changes them and makes them new and gives them meaning and purpose. The gospel is like being immersed in freezing cold water. It wakes you up and gives you the chills and makes you change your perspective. This gospel is for smokers and non smokers, rich and poor, beggars and thieves, the righteous and the unrighteous, for red, yellow, black and white, for male and female, for young and old.

Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

Posted by John Kline with 1 Comments

Back to Douglas Terrace!

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Friday, June 5, we went back to Douglas Terrace Apartments and had an outreach. We had beef hotdogs (so people who don’t eat pork could have them), watermelon, cucumbers (the kids love them), homemade deserts and chips. We had crafts and balls for games and this time we managed to get three bounce houses up and running. We brought the mobile clothes closet and had boxes full of children’s books to give away. Almost nothing came back to the church. Best of all, there was lots of time to sit and talk with kids and adults.

This visit celebrated five years nearly to the day since our first trip to Douglas Terrace, and that trip began a relationship with the people of the complex that essentially changed who we are as Zion Church. Let me share with you how we have been changed.

It all begin with a parable of Jesus in Luke 14 called “The Parable of the Great Banquet.” The parable was told to illustrate a point Jesus had just made while sitting at a banquet. He said, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

What changed for us begins with our motivation. In the past we had done events in order to attract people to the church. In other words, we did what we did so that they would come to the church, like us, and agree to join us so that we would have more people and resources to do more events and attract more people so that we could grow even larger. The difficulty with our thinking about this was that everything we did was then predicated on how many people would join us. In the end we have come to realize that for us this was a self serving philosophy that benefited us and not necessarily the world we were trying to reach or the people we hoped to attract. We see now that what we did we did so that people might “pay us back” by making Zion larger. I suppose you could say that we did loving things in the hopes that people would love us back. But that isn’t what Jesus is asking us to do.

Instead, we have come to understand that Jesus is asking us to go and bless people for his sake and for the sake of loving people never even considering whether they will love us back. So each time we go out to bless people we do so simply to be a blessing and not with any thought of making Zion bigger or better. Our motivation has changed from wanting people to bless us back to simply wanting to bless Jesus, our Master, by blessing those most in need and least likely to be able to repay in any way.

This change in our motivation absolutely squares with another teaching of Jesus where he says, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Jesus commands us to especially love those who are different from us. I think he does this because it is in his nature to reconcile the things that divide us as people in order that he might make us one new people united in him.

So, five years into this new motivation, we have seen Jesus time and again put us into relationships with people who are different than ourselves. Over these five years, beginning with that first outreach, we have become one church that worships in four languages and prays in more than a dozen. This isn’t without it’s challenges. In fact, it’s very hard to keep on reconciling all the people groups and maintaining unity in Christ. But we understand that this is why Jesus created the church: to be a place where differences are reconciled through the cross and we emerge a new people able to serve him.

What’s new at Zion as a result of that first outreach? Clothes closet, furniture to give away, meals for hundreds, field trips for schools, vans, buses, programs, ESL, summer Bible camps for lots and lots of kids, essential changes in every aspect of everything we do and why.

I simply lack the words to explain the extent of the changes that the first trip to Douglas Terrace brought about. But that change in motivation has created a place where there are daily miracles. In fact, I would posit that another change we’ve experienced is that we are now a church that expects the miraculous. We expect God to show up and do wonders. We expect him to provide. And we expect him to call us to do what we thought was impossible before.

Is there a cost to this kind of change? Of course. It’s high. But it’s totally worth it. It means living a messy life, the life of following Jesus which leads you into the lives of other people. It’s living as a missionary every day. It’s messy and complicated but also glorious and marvelous. And we can’t wait to see what’s next. Will you join us in praying for the next thing God is calling us to do? Thanks for reading. PJ

 

 

Jesus, Beds and Serving Our Neighbors

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Two thousand years ago Jesus and his parents had no place to sleep. There was no bed for them.

Two thousand years later, the number one request we get for help at Zion is for beds. People arriving in our city may have a roof to sleep under but they don’t have a bed to sleep on. There are entire apartment complexes we visit where almost every apartment has no beds.

We believe we’re called to change that. If Jesus disguises himself as the very least of these, perhaps we can at least serve him by giving him a bed to sleep on. So Zion has partnered with Midwest Sleep in order to provide beds for people in need in our community. Thanks to a generous donation, we’re able to provide 60 single beds to people who don’t have any. Thanks to Midwest Sleep we are able to purchase the beds at cost. We’ve been taking names for weeks and done our best to verify the need. Verification has been easy as we know many of these families already and can attest to their need.

Here’s the plan:

  • the beds will be delivered to the Johnston Public Schools dock the week of December 15. (Thank you, Johnston Schools for the use of your dock!)
  • From the dock we’ll move the beds to Zion and store them in the cafeteria sometime after the STARS Christmas party on December 17.
  • Then, on December 21, we’ll dismiss early from our worship services and ask the congregation to help us pray for, load, and deliver the beds and also about 150 Christmas food baskets to people in our community.
  • In addition, many of the beds and box springs will be wrapped in bed bug protective wraps in order to extend their usefulness and provide safe and comfortable rest for many years to come.

Everyone is welcome to come and join us on Sunday, December 21, for the big bed lift. In addition, if you’re in need of a bed, please contact Zion’s Parish Nurse, Sherilyn Rittgers at 515.270.8142.

It’s the season of Advent when we focus on getting ready for the coming of King Jesus. What better way for him to find us than doing good for those he came to save.

Our Story

This story began over five years ago with a question:  “If our church closed, would anyone miss us?”  We asked our board members to consider the question.  The answer they reached was, “no.”  After all, they concluded, our members would simply go to other churches.  It seemed a shame that we were so unconnected with our neighborhood that no one would miss us if we weren’t here.  It seemed that maybe Jesus Himself would want his church to have a better relationship with those around us.  


So we embarked on a project.  Our lead pastor would visit every neighbor who lived around the church.  He would try to meet them, ask them how Zion Church could bless them, find out if we were being a good neighbor, and give them information about the church and a $25 gift card to a new local restaurant.  He visited 30 some houses.  People were polite, impressed with the gift, but really didn’t have much to say about how the church could bless them.  


We broadened the project to include local businesses and institutions.  The pastor went to the local mall which is only a few blocks away.  “How can the church bless you?”, he asked the general manager.  Short of being willing to work together, there wasn’t anything we could do.  

Then the pastor went to the VA Hospital down the street.  “How can the church bless you?,” he asked.  They wanted volunteers.  Of course, since they are a federal institution, the application process is very involved.  We advertised the need but we are still waiting for our first volunteer from the church.  


A prayer changed everything.  One evening, sitting in the backyard and reading the Bible, our pastor cried out to the Lord in frustration.  “What kind of a church do you want us to be?”  “ A banquet,”  came the clear reply.  “What kind of banquet?”   “Like Luke 14,” he heard.  And then his mind was filled with images of a local apartment complex.  


Turning to Luke 14 we find the parable of the great banquet.  There were three things that leapt out at us immediately when we read this chapter.  1.) Jesus says, “When you give a banquet, don’t invite those who can invite you back.  Invite those who can never repay you.”  So we determined that Jesus wanted us to focus first and foremost on the very least, those who couldn’t repay us in any way for serving them.  2.) The guests who were invited, the intended recipients of God’s favor, didn’t come and sent their excuses.  We believe that many in the Church today don’t realize that they are saved for a purpose.  That purpose is to serve the Lord who saved us by serving others.  3.) God instructs his servants to go to the alleyways and the country roads and compel the poor and the lame and the lost to come to the banquet.  We understand this to mean that the church is to go out and seek, not stay home and wait for people to come to us. Zion’s mission statement became, “Jesus says, ‘Go!’”  


So we packed up a luncheon feast for 150 people, some games and crafts for the kids and went to the Douglas Terrace Apartments.  We met a lot of kids and found out that most of the people living in this complex were recent refugees.  Mostly from Burma.  We came back monthly for four months, bringing food, games, bounce houses, whatever we could think of, and we began learning names and building relationships.  


By the fall it began to occur to us that perhaps we could invite these kids to our Wednesday night tutoring program.  That program had 4 kids in it.  Overnight it multiplied to 40.  Then we needed to find more innovative ways to transport kids, feed kids, and provide the tutoring they needed in a fun atmosphere.  Today 300 kids participate.


Next stop for us was the local elementary school.  “How can the church bless you?”  Naturally, we expected a polite “no thank you.”  But we were surprised.  The school was having trouble getting children in the English Language Learner (ELL) program come to school in the cold and snowy weather.  The kids lived just beyond the edge of the busing zone and didn’t qualify to ride the bus.  Could the church help?  We asked the congregation and ten people volunteered to drive vans borrowed from local churches and ministries.  Each school day we began transporting 14 children to school and back.  The congregation stepped forward and we bought our first van.  The local school asked the local church for help and, praise God, we worked together to meet the need and the get the kids to school.  Turns out that the kids who needed rides lived in the apartment complexes at which we were doing outreaches.  Today we transport over 40 kids every school day. 


Next, we went to some local restaurants.  “How can the church bless you?” The Muslim owner of restaurant was well connected with his Iraqi refugee community.  “We need furniture,”  he replied.  The call went out to the church and furniture started to fill the lobby.  Just as quickly it went out to families from Iraq, Burma, and other places.  Friendships were made.  Jesus was honored.  The church became the go to place for help with everything from job applications to utilities to translation and even help for resolving disputes.  Furniture now comes from all over the city as word about the need gets out.  


The interest in Jesus by some of our new friends has caused us to start an Arabic language service on Sundays.  Today that service is led by a lay pastor from Iraq and our Muslim friends feel welcome and comfortable coming to the church with questions and needs and some are choosing to follow Jesus and being baptized. As an outgrowth of this ministry, we’ve help charter a new 501(C)3 organization called the Iraqi Community in Iowa in order to help meet the needs of this community. 


Our visits took us to the local mosque.  “How can the Church bless you?” Now our pastor and the imam regularly meet for coffee and conversation and we are committed to working together to make our community a better place for all.  The imam and some of his congregation join us each year at church for Christmas Eve dinner.  We in turn are invited to dinner during Ramadan. We work together yearly on a food drive for needy veterans and also work together to help refugees in Syria and Jordan. 


Each Christmas, people in the church want to bless our new friends in the community with Christmas presents and food baskets.

There was a growing need for clothes among the children and parents that were coming to the church for help.  So a clothes closet was started.  Today, that clothes closet goes “mobile” several times a year with a borrowed trailer that takes the clothes to places in our community where people are in need. Our lobby is full of bins for collecting clothes and household items for anyone in our community that needs help.




Because of our work in the community, Zion was approached by the Mizo, an ethnic group from Burma who wanted a church and a pastor to help them.  Zion obliged and today the 1:00 Sunday Mizo service is vibrant and growing and our Mizo brothers and sisters work side by side with us on projects and cleaning the church, exchanging preachers and choirs, sharing meals and going through life together as one church. Today, after about a year of paperwork, we have a Mizo speaking pastor from Burma on staff.

Recently, a group of Swahili and Kinyamulenge speaking Congolese joined Zion together with their pastor. That gave birth to the 10:30 a.m. Swahili service. We are working on being one church together and frequently worship and serve together. 


Sunday School is now an integrated experience, with Mizo kids and kids from the neighborhood joining us weekly to learn about Jesus.  A whole team of people joined together to provide transportation and to receive the kids when they arrive and depart. 


Our congregation caught the spirit of what God was doing and things like our Street Outreach, which delivers meals to the city’s homeless and prays with them began to grown. Showers that were built at Zion to host retreats are now used by the homeless so that they can refresh themselves before worship.

We had a long tradition of Wednesday night meals at our church.  Now those meals feed hundreds of people and have provided an avenue for people from our community to come and eat and be known. We are exploring how to become a food pantry specializing in Asian items because of the requests we receive.

Our building has become a center for our community. Zion is part of our city’s emergency management plans and serves as a shelter during times of disaster or extreme heat or cold. We host many community organizations, events, and summer camps.

In the last three years, a well regarded local preschool, lost their space and Zion was able to welcome them into our facility without cost. Today, Westside Early Education helps the church by providing room for non-English speaking preschoolers to begin learning English and relating to the classroom environment.

A few years ago we began offering ESL classes taught by volunteers. The classes became so large we needed help to run them and today we partner with the Iowa International Center to provided trained ESL teachers.  


We’ve learned so much over the last years.  We’ve learned that the church can become essential to the neighborhood simply by going out into the community and finding a way to serve people who can’t ever pay you back.  Simply put, Jesus told us to  “go.”  When we are obedient and go, the way the world looks at the church changes.  
We’ve also learned that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.  Some of the things we’ve been led to do would never have happened without the help of other churches and ministries and even secular organizations.  What we learned was that when we work with others, Jesus gets the glory and miraculous things are done in his name.   


We’ve learned that we don’t have to be afraid to simply ask, “How can the church bless you?”  Sure, some will send us away, but others are dying for our help.  They are looking for Christ but how will he come to them if we, his body, don’t bring him?  We never thought the local school would consider partnering with us.  But there are wonderful partnerships to be made out there if we are willing to humble ourselves and serve on terms other than our own.   


We also want everyone to understand a few things. We believe that Jesus has called us to minister everywhere, wherever we are, not just in this neighborhood.  But you have to start somewhere. And we encourage all our members to be open to the ministry that Jesus is calling you to right where you are. We believe that our ministry is to everyone, not just immigrants, but that’s how it started for us and that’s what Jesus has put in front of us in these days.  A few years from now, as our immigrant friends become part of the church and our neighborhood, our ministry focus will undoubtedly change as Jesus calls us forward into new adventures and journeys.  We believe that our ministry is not just local.  In other words, we still care about the rest of the world.  We still seek to support the people and things that God is doing globally. We are actively involved in ministry in Tanzania, South Sudan, Cambodia, Myanmar and Jordan and for praying for the Church in persecution throughout the world. 



Four years after beginning our project, the results, to us, are nothing short of miraculous.  We believe that we have found the ministry Jesus wants for us in this place at this time.  And, amazingly, new opportunities keep on presenting themselves.
The local middle school and high school are now asking for help in transporting students.  We could easily double our student transportation.  We were able to provide over 500 books to the elementary school, one for every student, just before Christmas.  The parents of the children, regardless of their ability to pay for books themselves, have expressed gratitude that the local church cares about their children.  The school has also asked us to provide weekend meals for students that the school is concerned have no food when they are not at school.  We are currently providing 30+ students with food each weekend.  


Zion has turned extra land on our campus into community gardens, especially for immigrants who miss being on the land and working the soil.  Today there are 60 plots for gardeners. The idea came about at a neighborhood meeting and will involve a partnership between the city, the church and Lutheran Services, a social service organization.  


We continue to offer “life skills” classes including things like “how to manage money,” “how to go to the pharmacy and what medicines to buy when your children are sick,” “how to buy a house,” and others  These classes are an opportunity for partnership between the church and other members of our community. We understand that the church should play a role for good in the transition of our neighborhood as the original residents from the post war era move out and first time home buyers from other places move in. 


Zion hosts an Iowa Career Access Point computer.  This means that the church can help people find available jobs.  We provide volunteers from the congregation to help people use it.  

Today, Zion is a church that worships in four languages and prays in over a dozen. Together we hope to be one church that loves and serves the Lord Jesus together. 


What’s next?  Only God knows.  We continue to pray we will be faithful in responding to his call.  What’s next for you?  Will you find your story in our story?  We invite you to come along and be part of the adventure.  


 

Posted by John Kline with 0 Comments

Are We Crazy?

Are We Crazy?

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.  When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:20-21

 

How important is it to you that you be seen by others as normal?

Are you willing to cross the line of other people’s perceptions from normal to crazy?

People thought Jesus was crazy. His own family thought he had completely lost it. Which is really odd when you consider that they knew something about the miraculous circumstances of his birth and the expectations of his life’s work.

Sometimes we give a pass to slightly crazy, successful, creative, innovative people like Jesus because we think that maybe craziness is the cost of being truly unique.

But Jesus calls us to follow him. He calls us to be seen as crazy too. He calls us to become like him. He calls us to let him be the pattern for who we are and how we live our lives and relate to others. He calls us to be crazy in the eyes of the world.

It’s crazy to invite a bunch of people you don’t know and who aren’t even like you into your space and offer to go through life with them. But that’s what Jesus does.

It’s crazy to gather more people together for an evening’s conversation than you can possibly feed with the food you have on hand. But that’s what Jesus does.

It’s crazy to wash the feet of the people who betray you with a kiss. But that’s what Jesus does.

It’s crazy to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. But that’s what Jesus does.

It’s crazy to think that people from different classes, ethnicities, abilities and generations could praise God together and go through life together. But that’s what Jesus believes.

It’s crazy to give away things you could use to help yourself and the people you want to impress and thereby improve your own position. But that’s what Jesus teaches.

It’s crazy to keep coming up with new ways to help people and minister to them when you aren’t even sure you can survive another month. But that’s what Jesus teaches us to do.

I hope people think our congregation is crazy. Crazy like Jesus. Our constant temptation is the temptation to be normal in the eyes of the world. But keeping things normal won’t change the world and show it Jesus. The true ambition of everyone who follows Jesus is to be crazy like he is.

Thanks for reading.  PJ

Prayer for Zion Church

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Jesus, Lord of the Church, give to the preacher grace to preach your word in truth despite my brokenness. We pray that in everything, you would increase and we would decrease.

As a church we ask for your forgiveness and your healing for our past and present sins. Especially for forgiveness where we have not embodied you, the Lord of the Church, and have been a scandal or a stumbling block for those who seek to believe. Forgive us for not giving to others the same grace and mercy you have shown to us, even to the point of death on a cross for us. Forgive us that at times, we are apt to make our worship more about what we like than about giving you the praise and glory and honor and unity that are rightly do to you, our Lord, God and King.

Restore us, we pray and equip us to better serve you in everything we do and in every situation into which you send us daily. Move us to forgive as we have been forgiven and to be merciful as you have shown us mercy.

Give us a passion to glorify you, Lord, in every aspect of what we do together and independently. Teach us to be a people focused on you and to desire you above everything else. Help us to do what you want, to love what you love, to desire what you desire. Make us to grow in love for you and for others. Teach us to be patient, make us wise through your word, and strengthen us to be dauntless and courageous in doing what is right and pleases you.

May Zion Church be the catalyst for an epidemic of righteousness in this city. May your word move us mightily into action in such a way that hearts and lives and eternities in this city are changed. We pray especially that the special relationships with the Muslim community you have given us would lead many to follow you.

May we be a church together where the lonely find community, the outcasts find acceptance and understanding, the sick find healing, the addicted and the prisoners find true and lasting freedom, where the hungry are fed, the needy are clothed, the homeless find a home, and the thirsty find satisfying drink. Let us be a place where streams of living waters flow forth and water a dry and thirsty land.

We are a Church of many people: People from Iowa and elsewhere in America, from Burma and Iraq, Congo and Liberia, South Sudan and other places. We are people of every generation, station, and ability. We pray in many languages and many ways but we seek our unity in you, Jesus. Grant us grace to overcome all that divides us and make out of many, one holy people, a church of priests to serve our God.

We ask for the unity of all the congregations in our city that the unbelieving world would see that there is only one church in Des Moines and that that church belongs to Jesus and is truly the enfleshment of his body.

Bless and keep our elected leaders and those who have authority over us in our nation, state, county and city. Inform and guide their decisions by your mighty hand and may the laws they pass be for the good of all. May justice and mercy be our goal and may righteousness and peace be the result.

We pray that you meet all our needs. Please give us neither too much nor too little so that we can pay our bills and help the poor. Move us to give with kind and generous hearts so that people might see you as kind and generous. Raise up leaders and helpers among us to do the work you have set before us.

May our children grow up to love and serve you. May parents lead their children to godliness and holiness. Be pleased to fill all of us with your Holy Spirit and may signs and wonders be seen every day among us.

May we embody, you, Jesus, may we truly be your body. May the people of Zion truly embody your grace and forgiveness and redemption. May we be bold proclaimers of your word, your will, your way. May we be doers as well as hearers of your word.

All these things we pray in the matchless and mighty name of Jesus of Nazareth, Christ, Messiah, Lord of all. Amen.

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Ramblings about God, the Church and Everything.

  • after Jesus’ own heart, 
  • with relevant, Bible based teaching,
  • with passionate and authentic worship,
  • of prayer,
  • with a heart for our city and the world,
  • where the love of our Lord is evident in the way we live and minister together. 

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